On the south-west border of Florida’s state capital of Tallahassee sits one of the states largest National Forests, Apalachicola National Forest. Florida has always been a haven for off-roaders and Apalachicola National Forest is a prime example. It is home to 56 miles of ATV, single track and automobile trails over several types of terrain.
There are three trailheads for ATV enthusiasts. Two are dirt parking lots off dirt roads. But the Silver Lake trailhead at the Silver Lake Recreational Area is a great launching point. For a $3 use fee you can pull into paved parking lots with plenty of room for trailers. Surrounding you is the swimming area of Silver Lake and a bathhouse as well as grilling areas. Riding fees are $10 per rider for a 3-day pass good for most of the National Forest trails in Florida. $75 will get you an annual trail pass.
Hitting the trails you may immediately wonder if you need sand paddles. The trails start off with very soft, white sand and may concern you about getting stuck. The softness of the sand fluctuates throughout the trails but we never had any struggles from it. The trails are all clear and wide. They are also pretty clearly marked with forestry road numbers. The trails cut in and out of automobile forestry roads and each of the ORV trails are clearly marked for what types of vehicles are allowed.
The trails aren’t all about sand. There are several water crossings and deep water holes. Most of the water holes have bypass trails cut around them or have a rock base. The holes were fine for even stock ATVs but we did bottom out on one and have to practice our recovery methods.
While generally a flat landscape the scenery changes regularly. Patches of tall pines with a lush fern floor disappear fade to small hardwoods with thick underbrush and then to few trees with shrubbery growing in swamp like conditions. At times you can’t even see a trail, just a submerged clearing, curving through the bushes.
The trails are very easy, a great place for beginners to learn. The trails are fine for sport ATVs and dirt bikes too. UTVs are allowed and should have plenty of clearance on the trails. The only disappointment we saw was that the shower heads in the bathhouse had been removed. Not as in the were stolen, but as in they had been capped off. If you need to clean up just take a dip in Silver Lake! For more information on the ATV Trails at Apalachicola National Forest see their website at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/apalachicola/recreation/ohv/recarea/?recid=75268&actid=93